Student senate, MCTC administration, refuse to release candidate applications

Photo credit: Mark Wasson

The Student Senate claims that only two students have submitted applications for the upcoming student Executive Board election but this cannot be confirmed as the Student Senate, along with the MCTC administration, has so far refused to release any candidate applications.

This refusal to release the documents included an attempt to “clean the story up” by Charles Karter, student president, and the refusal of Student Activities Coordinator Shannon Williams and Director of Student Life Tara Martinez to acknowledge who actually has control of the documents.

The attempt to obtain candidate applications began with an email to Williams inquiring about a list of candidates on Aug. 28.

In a reply via email a day later, Williams said that she was busy with Welcome Week and to connect with the newly installed Student Director of Legislative Affairs Robel Tedros. She stated that candidates will not be released until Sept. 19.

Requests for documents continue to be blocked

In the following days, no less than seven requests for the candidate applications were made, one being a formal request outlining the possible penalties of obstructing access to a public document.

At one point,Tedros and President Karter made assurances that they would release the documents to CCN but according to Karter, Williams reminded Karter that they had previously agreed not to release candidate names until Sept. 19.

The reason given for not releasing candidate information was summed up in an email from Tedros that said in part:

“People are not interested in running for positions if they see they are already being ran after, it is one of the reasons that there is a period of candidacy forums and that there is another period for elections.”

This direction to not release the candidate forms came from both Karter and Williams.

On Sept. 5 Williams replied to a public information request saying:

“…Student Senate is not a governmental entity under the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act. I have attached a recent court case that sets a precedent for this type of request. Additionally, two days is not a reasonable amount of time to respond under the MGDPA.”

The request sent by CCN was not a request for the Student Senate to send CCN the candidate applications, but for Williams to adhere to open records laws as they apply to her role as an employee at a public institution.

Karter accuses CCN of writing “hit-piece”

Also on Sept. 5, Karter requested a meeting with himself, Tedros, Interim Student Vice President Dallas Rising, CCN Editor-in-Chief Emily Lazear and CCN reporter Mark Wasson.

The meeting, according to Karter when asked by Rising what the meeting was about said “We’re cleaning up the story.”

During the almost 30-minute meeting Karter accused CCN of writing a “hit-piece” against Williams and that there was a personal agenda being pursued in the quest for obtaining the candidate applications.

During this meeting, Tedros stated he was for releasing the candidate applications and Karter admitted that while he was for releasing the documents his mind was swayed once Williams intervened.

Tedros claimed he had access to the candidate application when the pair was asked who had access. Something Karter did not know and had seemingly only thought Williams did.

During this meeting, Karter repeatedly said he wanted to be transparent but when asked to actually be transparent and release the documents Karter responded with “No.”

Administration also blocks request

Martinez, replying to the email chain, said on Sept 6 that the data “…is not government data subject to the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act,” and that the data was being held by the MCTC Student Senate. Martinez added in her email, even if the records were covered by the MGDPA, the Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act would apply and the documents would not be releasable.

Student senate breaks another assurance

On Sept. 7 the student senate approved in a 15-6 vote to change the student senate bylaws to allow for candidate information to be released after they have been vetted and are qualified to run for Executive Board positions. Both Tedros and Karter agreed to release the candidate applications to CCN on Friday Sept 8.

On Sept. 8 Tedros sent an email which said he is “…unable to provide the declaration of candidacy forms that you have requested.” And directed all question to Karter as he was now “…the point person on this matter.”

Karter’s response to the denial of the request is as follows:

“…Robel/Legislative Affairs retrieve’s the candidacy forms per the bi-laws, they go directly to Shannon to check for things like GPA, credits, and the student conduct officer needs time to look over violations…Two people have completed the forms, Dallas and Myranda. Shannon/Conduct currently has them, and we’re currently waiting to hear back from the conduct officer for both of these. I expect we’ll have an update on their status Monday. They go back to Robel, and I have instructed him to turn over the letter of intent and the forms (redacting the student ID# for privacy), to you once he receives them, per your request…”

As of this article going to print no candidate applications have been given to CCN.

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